Overcoming Gender Barriers to Communication

In this series, we discuss The Seven Barriers of Communication. This post is dedicated to gender barriers. Stay tuned as we discuss each.

Gender barriers have become less of an issue in recent years, but there are still common communication issues that arise between people of different genders when they misconstrue the words of one another.

Growing equality in the workplace between certain genders—like men and women—hasn’t certainly helped in man aspects, but it hasn’t necessarily eliminated the communication barriers that arise between people of different genders. As with all types of people who come from different backgrounds, we’re socialized in different ways and experience societal pressures and stereotypes of different kinds. Communication styles are inevitably affected by these factors and can lead to problems in the workplace.

The details of where these differences between genders arise shouldn’t prevent anyone of any gender from communicating effectively with someone of a different gender. All that’s required is some patience, understanding, and empathy.

Stereotyping

It’s important to remember that stereotypes are just that: oversimplified ideas of what a particular type of person or thing ought to be like. Not all men, women, or otherwise are going to communicate in the same way as the rest of their gender. While several traits tend to be more common in one gender than another, it’s important to allow people to define their own individual style of communication without expecting them to conform to any one style common to their gender. This understanding is key to creating a work environment that fosters open communication and acceptance amongst all employees.

Examples Of Gender Barriers

As you have navigated along in this world, you’ve probably met plenty of people who do and do not fit into your idea of how their gender typically acts, speaks, or looks. The world is made up of unique individuals, and respecting each person’s individuality is incredibly important in establishing a safe work environment.

You may have made assumptions about whether a particular gender:

– Tends to talk about people vs. tangible things
– Tends to ask questions vs. sharing information
– Tends to discuss issues with other people when they arise vs. dealing with them on their own
– Tends to focus on their feeling and the meaning behind people’s gestures/words vs. focusing on facts and taking things at face-value
– Tends to hold onto conflicts after they’re over vs. moving on quickly

Note: These are over-simplified examples. Most people are a mix of tendencies, and no one person fits into any given stereotype to a T.

Overcoming Gender Barriers to Communication

If you suspect gender barriers are affecting your workplace communication, here are some helpful hints:

Educate your team about gender and gender bias. People often struggle to identify their own biases and areas of ignorance, but when people are made aware of them, it creates the possibility for positive change. Most people, given information that shows how they’ve treated another person unfairly, will want to do what they can to correct their behavior.

Encourage diversity. If you’re sitting in a conference room discussing how a new policy/process will affect your entire company and only men are present, chances are you could be missing out on ramifications that unfairly affect other genders. Include people of different genders, races, backgrounds, etc., so that decisions can be made in light of how they will affect everyone at your company, and not just one group or gender.

Equip your HR team. If an issue does arise, you want to make sure you have an HR representative who is informed and equipped to deal with these kinds of matters in a respectful, tactful, and fair manner.

Final Thoughts

Offices are full of all kinds of people from different walks of life. The more we learn about each other, and the more we allow people to act as unique individuals, the happier and more supported employees will feel at work.

Work better, together.

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